Beth England’s journey to England international has been a long one, but it’s one she’s very proud of as she sets her eyes now on a place in Team GB’s Olympic squad next summer.
The 25-year-old left Doncaster Belles to join Chelsea back in 2016, but struggled to make an immediate impact on a team that had just been crowned champions.
Now, via a loan spell at Liverpool that she admits had her doubting her future in the capital, England is showing the quality that made the Blues sign her in the first place and it’s deservedly earned her an overdue place in the national team.
“I think the first year and a half at Chelsea I struggled to find my feet a bit,” the forward admits.
“I moved away from home, everything was different, I went from part-time to full time, so that was quite a big adaptation.
“There were some great players in that squad then, especially the forwards, so it was quite difficult I think I ended up playing wingback for the Spring Series - which I hated, which was a lot of running!
“As much as I didn’t agree with it at the time, it was the right decision for me to go on loan and going to Liverpool is probably the best thing to happen to me.
“I felt like I had a really good season for Liverpool and then managed to kick on even better last season at Chelsea.
“It was a tough journey because, in my head, any player that gets loaned out, you think that your manager doesn’t want you.
“But it was changing that mindset and showing you that I can be the player that you need me to be and thankfully I did that so I was really proud of way I handled it and managed to get back into the Chelsea squad - and now I’ve got the nine shirt.
“So [it’s been] quite a big journey, but I’ve loved every minute of it, with the tears and all.”
Despite 10 goals in 16 games for Liverpool and then 12 in 18 for Chelsea last season, from just 12 starts, England just missed out on a World Cup squad.
But her form ensured a place on Phil Neville’s radar, a spot in the pre-tournament camp and now, with her carrying last season’s form into the new campaign, she looks likely to be sticking around.
“I’ve started [the season] quite well,” she says modestly, with one goal and one assist from three games – the goal a rocket from 25 yards at Stamford Bridge.
It was a goal all her family were there to see too, making the occasion even more special, and this call-up is one that England shares with them.
“My mum is always the go to. She’s my best friend and she’s my number one fan.
“She’s proud. Obviously, she’s been on this journey with me ever since I was a kid, coming to every football game.
“She tries her best to get up and down the country even though she’s crap on motorways - it takes her hours to get to London for Chelsea games!”
The call-up, which will see England be part of the squad that face Brazil in Middlesbrough on Saturday 5 October before a trip to Portugal, means a new chant is needed for the Chelsea striker, too.
After years of hearing ‘England for England’ sung – something she admits the players love to “take the mickey” out of her for – she is finally in the set-up.
“I couldn’t have appreciated it more because it was nice to know that the fans had my back and, again, they’ve been on the journey with me," she said.
“Everyone’s saying I need a new chant now I’m finally here! But as long as they keep supporting me, I am happy with that.”